Welcome all, and the Lord bless you. For some time I slowed down here while I did some training and “setting up shop” in the grants writing field. But then I stepped back after becoming discouraged, realizing I needed to rethink my goals and strategy. That sounds so . . . blah and businessy, doesn’t it? But it’s actually true. I wasn’t approaching things the right way and had to calm down about it. Be still and know the Lord, right? Yes, be still. And listen.
In the meantime, during Christmas break time, I decided to go ahead and get going on an idea I’ve had for a long time. And that is coming up with a clothes design called “Monkwear” (apparently the name has been used before since I couldn’t use that name on Twitter). I have always had this tug on my heart, this desire that stems from sadness, that Christians should be more united. Christ prayed for it, yet, we seem so much at odds with each other so often. So I thought it would be neat if Christians would wear similar and humble clothes all at the same time–to show unity and to be encouraged by seeing siblings in Christ that we don’t personally know. How much stronger would some of us be if we could only see how many really had faith, and were willing to show it (in what seems a non-confrontational way)?
Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17
So Monkwear. Brown simple clothes to wear one day a week or month. I’m still working on a basic design I want to have on my version of Monkwear; I want to get it “right” and it’s daunting. In the meantime (again), I’ve been learning GIMP and whatever else I need to know to sell designs on CafePress. I might do another outlet later, but it’s CafePress for right now. In case anyone is interested, I have these designs up now; there are even some “With Christian Eyes” things there. This is not to promote my blog, since the url is not on it, but the sentiment CS Lewis wrote:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
The shop at CafePress is Monkwear and The Priest’s Dabblings, and you can connect with me on Twitter if you want at MonkwearCP. (You can sign up for deals and coupon codes, which provide significant discounts – see CafePress home page.) Thanks SO much for reading this far, and for visiting my shop if get THAT far! In this media-saturated age, I know how much your time and attention are worth.
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast keep warm this small hot naked star fallen to my arms. (Rest . . . you who have had so far to come.) Now nearness satisfies the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies whose vigour hurled a universe. He sleeps whose eyelids have not closed before. His breath (so slight it seems no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps to sprout a world. Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw, he dreams, hearing no music from his other spheres. Breath, mouth, ears, eyes he is curtailed who overflowed all skies, all years. Older than eternity, now he is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed to my poor planet, caught that I might be free, blind in my womb to know my darkness ended, brought to this birth for me to be new-born, and for him to see me mended I must see him torn.
In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 113.
AT THE MANGER MARY SINGS
By W.H. AUDEN
O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger With their watchfulness; protected by its shade Escape from my care: what can you discover From my tender look but how to be afraid? Love can but confirm the more it would deny. Close your bright eye.
Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you But an anxiety your Father cannot feel? Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you, Or my mother love, but tempt you from his will? Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep? Little One, sleep.
Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone. In your first few hours of life here, O have you Chosen already what death must be your own? How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way? Dream while you may.
In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 112.
JOURNEY OF THE MAGI
By T.S. ELIOT
‘A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.’ And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, And the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices: A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, Sleeping in snatches, With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, And three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kiking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember, And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), December 28 & 29.
I don’t know about you, but one of my little enjoyable pastimes is to read the searches that have led people to my blog. Most are pretty straightforward and it’s obvious why the person decided to check one of my posts out. Others are just unexpected and funny, and still others seem too general or off-the-subject; of the latter, I’m glad the person visited. I wish very much that these people (anyone who visits here, really) would leave comments or questions – that would be fun!
“the samarathon woman” She probably was in good enough shape to run a marathon after constantly lugging around jugs full of water in the middle of hot desert days.
“stormcloak officer armor revealing” Really?!
“adam lanza christian fanatic” Why not “adam lanza muslim fanatic”? Just wondering . . .
“christian poem on the tongue” (No comment . . . ha ha, perhaps they’re referring to James chapter 3, which has some very harsh words regarding the use of our tongue in conveying lies, evil and hurt.)
“butter my heart three person’d god” This has made me laugh out loud more than once. Of course, it’s supposed to be “batter” my heart, not butter my heart . . . makes me feel like a turkey being prepared for God’s oven.
“hellokitty skyrim” I wonder what they’re looking for? Knowing Sanrio, they’re working to contract something with Bethesda, surely.
“skyrim 1800s” ?!??! Seriously?
“evil bible king’s famous instrument for telling time” If anyone can explain this one to me, I’d be grateful.
“can christians play skyrim” (“skyrim seems like a bad game for christians”) CAN they? Do they need permission from some pastor? You know what’s bad for Christians? Living in this world with so much evil in it! I’m not questioning God’s motive for having us live in this world, I’m only making a point. Skyrim is a game, and by today’s standards, a quite clean one that actually enjoys playing around with religious ideas and culture, and the complexities of people and politics.
“how women should play skyrim” =D Well, they could ask . . .
“god is evil quotes” Just weird and sad; glad they stopped by, though. But then again, maybe they were simply doing some research.
“what do christians think of hello kitty story” Is there a story? If I knew the story, I could form an opinion. As far as I know, Hello Kitty is simply a very successful product venture. There are some unsavory HK products out there, but if some people want to abuse the cute feline, that’s their business.
“short intellectual quotes” Out of all the pages the searcher must have gotten from this search, I’m surprised they found my page url . . . and actually stopped by.
“religious poems for dads that died” I know it’s perhaps morbid to call out this one, but it still made me laugh a bit. How can you give a poem to a dead person? Did they want poems about dads that died, or a poem for the children whose dads died? My dad died when I was young and it was completely devastating; I never thought of writing any type of poem about it.
“unthink christmas card” Not sure about this one . . . but please, don’t unthink Christmas, unless it’s the commercial aspect of today’s holiday.
There’s a search that, even though it’s from more than a year ago, I still remember and consider the oddest one to lead someone to my blog (my old blog, which DID have a recipe for a great sandwich on it), so I just wanted to share it, though it’s adult material (sort of!): “Is there a good sandwich that can make up for bad sex?” Well, a pile of McDonald’s fish filets (with some fries on the side) just might do it for me.
The “Dragonborn” addition to the Skyrim video game, which came out earlier this month (December 2012) for XBOX, has – I think – the most “Christian” oriented content overall (in Skyrim, not the other Elder Scroll games). I wish I had written down certain dialog as I played it with my high-level character, but I simply wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to takes notes on! (If I start a new game, it will be some time before I can get to those dialogs again – for now, this commentary without quotes will have to do.)
This latest DLC adds additional land mass via a large island known in the Elder Scroll series as Solstheim. (Update of Dec. 24: it appears to be playable from the beginning of a new game, as I went to Soltstheim at level 6, after I fought my first dragon and made my way to Windhelm). It is no doubt loved by Elder Scroll fans since it brings in elements from Morrowind (the home of the Dunmer, or Dark Elves), and indeed, the flavor of the place is quite a bit different from Skyrim (the home of the Nords). There are various quests to be found and accomplished, but the main quest involves the defeat of the first dragonborn, Miraak, who still exists after ages because of his service to Hermeus Mora, the powerful spirit being of knowledge and fate. Miraak desired power and thus made a “pact with the devil” – a safe allusion to Mora and his top minion. The DLC takes place when Miraak has used his powers to enslave the sleeping minds and bodies of the denizens of Solstheim, whom he is using to build a temple to himself. Miraak has only a small amount of dialog, but that small amount sounds an awful lot like satanic desires and promises. In addition, he has his hypnotized followers say things that are a copy, and thus a sick mockery, of true spiritual expression.
What’s interesting, from a Christian-in-the-current-world point of view, is that Hermeus Mora’s realm is called Apocrypha. (“Apocrypha” are extra-biblical writings of various qualities some are legitimate but have some textual or factual issues, while others are outright forgeries with false “witness”). It is dark and hazy and is made up of books (literally – the walls are made of books), and all underneath and around walkable areas is a very black sea. This “sea” has black slithery arms coming out of it all of the time, and they will whip you and hurt you if they can. The most dangerous creatures that stalk the place look very much akin to the old “creature from the black lagoon.” The other dangerous creatures are “seekers,” whose hideous appearance includes a lamprey-like mouth where their stomach is. These seekers of “knowledge” are never satisfied, but devour what their gut desires and not what their heart and mind discerns as true. This is my take on them, anyway, which I see as the problem with seeking and using secret – usually false – knowledge, and which is the point of this dark and eery place.
When it comes to Christianity, God chose to communicate with man and it was His desire to be known and understood. Those who purport to have “secret” knowledge of Him in order to steer someone away from God’s revelation, are not working within God’s desires for mankind.
On the other side of the coin are the Skaal of Solstheim. They are Nords of the ancient way and claim to have been given Solstheim by the All-Maker. They believe in one creator God, and the way they talk about creation and how we are to be in it, generally fits in with the Judeo-Christian biblical message. You can have an interesting conversation with Wulf Wild-Blood of the Skaal, who asks you if you can find his run-away brother whom he believes turned into a werebear (like a werewolf, only a bear). His brother could go down that path only be rejecting the call of the All-Maker. While the Skaal have beliefs that mesh with scriptures, they have others that do not – they believe in reincarnation. Conversations with fellow Skyrim players about how reincarnation doesn’t at all mesh with a loving creator God, and how it is wholly incompatible with Christ’s message and work, is a possible real-world benefit of playing this game.*
If, as a Christian, you will only play games that have pure Christian messages and signs, then Skyrim and Dragonborn aren’t for you. But if you want to play a game that actually gives a nod to God and certain Judeo-Christian beliefs and virtues in today’s world, then Skyrim is an OK game for that. I wrote about Skyrim earlier, here. That review by no means covers all the aspects of Skyrim. There are things about the game I don’t like and scratch my head at, wondering about the game maker (Bethesda) every time I think of them (there are aspects of the game you can only play if you decide to do bad and dishonorable things).
Hopefully I’ll be able to flush this review out in the future, with quotes and such. In the meantime, enjoy the Dragonborn and listen to the new leader of the Skaal: do not follow Hermeus Mora, but follow the path laid out for you (and to the Skaal, this would be by the All-Maker).
* These last two sentences were edited in after the initial posting of this review (12-20-12).
The situation for American reverend, Saeed Abedini, is getting desperate as no progress has been made in having him released from Iran’s worst prison. He was arrested in Iran on September 26, 2012, while visiting his parents and relatives. His immediate relatives were placed under house arrest as well. 32 year old Abedini has a wife and two children.
The court in Iran implemented a bail for Abedini, which is large but which his family had acquired, but no one has actually accepted the bail after several attempts at officially paying it. Officials reject their paper work and funds and tell them to get lost. Making the situation grave is the lack of diplomatic relations between the US and Iran.
When Abedini still lived in Iran he had converted to Christianity and helped found underground churches. Having had many run-ins with the government, he moved to the US and signed an agreement with the them. If he did not do any more Christian evangelical work, the Iranian government would leave him alone when he visited the country. The government has failed to keep their side of the bargain, however. Abedini has helped, and continues to help, in setting up an orphanage in Iran. He has visited his family and helped with the orphanage during a number of visits to Iran in recent years, but during this year’s trip he was imprisoned without charges.
Just prior to Abedini’s arrest, there was great news that Iranian Pastor Yousef Nardakhani was released from prison there. He had been imprisoned for almost three years and had faced execution. Compass Direct on Yousef Nardakhani’s Release.
In church last weekend the thought came to me that the beauty of human singing is an example of a God given gift or virtue. How can singing, beautiful singing, be considered a trait that evolved? Our voices are so varied to begin with that it’s hard to think that somehow that variety evolved, but then there is also singing. Can you imagine a chimp or ape singing? The thought is laughable.
The theory of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest. Surely that works at a basic level in any environment with any species. But there are many problems with the time frame for species to actually diverge and develop (despite what basic level text books say . . . they make it sound like all is fact when it is not); and it can easily be shown that there has not been enough time for humans to have developed to their present state from their nearest assumed ancestor (for more on this, see “Science and Human Origins” Informational Review).
So besides all the other differences between us and the very small and very ape-like ancestor of ours, singing had to develop somehow, right? As already mentioned, environment plays a factor in who lives and who does not. But a biggy that evolutionists use is sexual selection. I’m not writing a scientific discourse here, but am going by my past studies (I have a degree in anthropology with an emphasis on human evolution and archaeology).
Here’s an example. Why are human female breasts so big (usually, and compared to other primates)? Well, you can imagine the answer: males had more sex with females with bigger breasts, producing more big-breasted females. And you might reflect on how that answer just doesn’t seem valid based on human sexuality, that while many men find large breasts attractive, most men wouldn’t care about that when it came to the chance for sex. And if you imagine it from a purely scientific, non-Christian viewpoint, “evolving” men probably cared even less and raped more. At any rate, scientists may try to argue that human singing is a result of not survival of the fittest in the environment, but survival of the most reproduced based on attraction, just like the breast example.
Do you think that could be so, really? A good singer (or any other charismatic person, for that matter), may have more sex partners – which in the past would result in more offspring. But, considering how beautiful good singing is, wouldn’t we all be great singers by now? Or, wouldn’t some populations have a very high per cent of great singers by now, and some have mostly lousy singers? And, of course, this type of argument can’t account for the amazing nuances/differences of the human voice itself.
No, we were created with these traits. Singing is often, if not always, associated with the spiritual. I don’t mean that singing is always spiritual, but that is has always been used in spiritual contexts as far as I’m aware. Singing is emotional, it’s often spiritual, it can induce or promote thoughts of love. We as humans think musically and mathematically, with thoughts of the music of the spheres and the singing of angels. This all coming from the survival of the fittest? I don’t think so. When we see human aggression and greed, the survival of the fittest makes sense, but when it comes to beauty like human singing, it does not.
Recently I wrote a bit on homes on Land-lease land to warn anyone who is looking to buy and is wondering about this kind of place. In our pursuit of owning instead of renting, and being lower-income, I have learned some more about real estate and mortgages, and I must say, the real estate world doesn’t make much sense right now. And, the only group of people who are benefiting – in the low-end market, anyway – are the investors.
So we had this whole mortgage debacle and the recession (depression), and rules were changed as a result. When new rules and regulations are made, it’s because someone out there was greedy or mean or evil, and “safeguards” are put into place. These “safeguards” normally end up being a real pain in the posterior and make good people work harder, work more, pay more, etc.
Our personal background is important here, since getting a mortgage is tied to one’s last two years of work. I couldn’t get a job during the recession/depression because no one would hire someone who hadn’t worked in a while (I stayed home for quite a few years to help my son with his learning issues); in fact, many employers wouldn’t hire someone who wasn’t working already! In addition, I was either over qualified or under qualified, depending on where I was applying. But I was finally able to land a job – a very part-time one. I have had this job for about 15 months now and my boss is happy with me.
But, for Fannie Mae to consider my income at all, I have to have worked for my boss for at least 24 months. Wow . . . that really helps people who are trying to get back on their feet . . . So, we’re lower income and trying our darnedest to buy a home, since our monthly costs will be LESS, but we can’t because Fannie Mae says we’re just not responsible enough . . . ! Isn’t pleasing a boss and sticking with it for 15 months responsible, as well as trying to live more within our means??
Coupled with the amount that we can borrow relative to our income that actually is “acceptable,” well, it’s just crazy. See, they will give us a loan that shows that we can pay 50% or more of our monthly income on our housing costs. As a lower income person, how can I do that??? If I pay for health insurance, car insurance, and my other needs, I couldn’t afford to pay out 50% for housing costs. So it’s as if they want people to fail.
So, my good part-time income can’t be included when trying to get an ARM loan, BUT, they are willing to loan us a bunch of money under a higher-interest conventional loan under the condition that we pay about 50% of our pay toward housing costs.
As an example, the mortgage on a conventional loan of $200K for us would be almost the same as an ARM mortgage of $250K. See what a difference a little interest makes? We have the same credit rating, but getting different rates; I have excellent credit, but they won’t use it.
Meanwhile, my agent tells me, investors are having a feast here in Southern California. They gobble up, with cash, all the lower end places and then rent them out; these new land owners are from places like China, too. For people like us who can only afford a lower end place, either we simply can’t compete, or we have to end up moving into a complex that isn’t kept up, is over-crowded, won’t resell well, etc. I don’t get how we can continue to allow foreign investors to buy our homes, places our own citizens ought to be able to buy and live in.
The rich are favored in this country in the name of freedom. You are free to make a better life for yourself here if you’re wealthy or if you cheat (if you haven’t heard of the level of cheating that goes on in universities and on resumes, then you should check it out). A “free” country can’t work when people are only into it for themselves, otherwise those who are power hungry and greedy will naturally percolate up and come to control whatever they want. While our country’s history has not been perfect by any means, it was founded on Christian ideals. Freedom can only work in this type of “love your neighbor as yourself” context.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
In Christianity, you are supposed to give to the poor, not take from them or oppress them. God commands in the Old Testament to not collect usurious interest.
In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD. Ezekiel 22:12
And, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, just as Matthew 7:12 already pointed out. And who are our neighbors? Everyone, really, as the story told by Jesus of the good Samaritan alluded. Certainly, we are not to be naive concerning cheaters and frauds, but our country favors the wealthy and aggressive and keeps down those who don’t want to climb the ladder to riches. How else do you think we keep having these financial debacles that make everyone suffer and damage the whole economy?
I’ve always wanted to write about Amanda Smith, and here I’ll introduce her. I’m sure she must be known in some circles, but when I first read about her over a decade ago, I was actually shocked. I had never heard of her, even though she was an international evangelist and missionary. Why is that?
Generally, we tend here, in America, to not learn much history, and when we attempt it, it seems all stale and dry, and no one seems to remember much. Otherwise, I think we are still a male dominated culture, no matter what people say or how we can point to how long respect and equality have been taught in schools. Amanda was black and female, and she experienced much prejudice on both counts in this country. During her stays in other countries, including Great Britain, she was treated with respect and without prejudice. Also, religious history and biography are not taught in school much, and churches basically stick to teaching the Bible or their own flavor of doctrine, and ignore historical and biographical lessons. You can find quite a few references to Amanda online, but I read of her in Six Qualities of Women of Character by Debra Evans (Zondervan Publishing House 1996).
But what about Amanda; what is her story? Amanda was born into slavery, in Maryland, in 1837. Thankfully, her family was one that was permitted to stay together. She knew her grandmother and her father, although her father worked so incredibly hard, she probably saw him little until their eventual freedom. Her parents were faithful Christians, and her mother and grandmother prayed for the salvation of their young mistress, Celie. Celie indeed became saved, but soon after contracted typhoid fever and died. Her death bed wish to her parents was to let free her slaves, who were her Christian siblings. Her parents granted her request and Amanda became free at the age of 13.
While she experienced the faith of her immediate family, she felt that she needed a conversion experience. She needed to make a commitment herself. This she did at a Baptist revival meeting in 1856; she was forever changed and strengthened by relationship with Christ that began then. Her life was hard and she needed the Lord’s strength! She married a man at 17, and he turned out to be an alcoholic. Their marriage was full of strife, but it didn’t last long as her husband was killed in the Civil War. She had a daughter by this marriage, Mazie, and Amanda worked hard indeed for her well-being.
Her second marriage wasn’t much better. The man she married tricked her into thinking he was going to be appointed minister in a local church, which Amanda was thrilled about. But after the marriage, she found that he in fact had given up the thought of ministering for Christ. Can you imagine this deception, how it would feel to one who was overjoyed at the thought of being able to serve her Lord fully, and in fellowship with a group of other passionate believers?
After this, desiring affirmation from God, a confirmation of her salvation and desire to be close to God and serve Him, she prayed. She encountered the Holy Spirit twice one night in September 1868,
. . . a wave came over me, and such a welling up in my heart . . . . How I have lived through it I cannot tell, but the blessedness of the love and the peace and power I can never describe. O, what a glory filled my soul! The great vacuum in my soul began to fill up; it was like a pleasant draught of cool water, and I felt it. I wanted to shout Glory to Jesus! . . . . Just as I put my foot on the top step I seemed to feel a hand, the touch of which I cannot describe. It seemed to press me gently on the top of my head, and I felt something part and roll down and over me like a great cloak! I felt it distinctly; it was done in a moment, and O what a mighty peace and power took possession of me! (Amanda Smith, in An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Amanda Smith , as quoted in Evans pp 180-181.)
Amanda now felt that the Lord was with her, in control of her life no matter how hard it was, and she prayed constantly and learned from her Lord during the most tedious of times. She talked with anyone she could about Christ, finding it easy after taking the effort to start. While her husband was alive, her ministry was local, but after he died things changed. She began ministering at meetings in New Jersey, and soon found herself being invited to speak and sing at revival meetings all across the U.S. She soon felt God telling her to minister in Africa and India, but she was to go to Great Britain first.
While fearful of crossing the Atlantic, she finally realized that her fear showed a lack of trust in God. She eventually repented and made the watery trek. God had a surprise in store for Amanda, and no doubt a confidence boosting mission it was: the captain of the ship asked Amanda to conduct the ship’s services. Though there was prejudice against her on that voyage, she won everyone over by the time the trip was over.
In Great Britain, she was welcomed with open arms. It didn’t matter that she was black, or female. She had thought that her time there would be about three months, but she preached around the whole of England and Scotland for two years. She met and was respected by those in the upper class, and these helped her in her future work for the Lord. Her daughter’s room and board in America were paid for, so she needn’t worry about that, and her trip to India finally became a reality. The poverty and the very poor treatment of women she saw there “gripped her heart instantly.” The experience made her realize something that affected her ministry the rest of her life–that evangelism must be coupled with the meeting of practical human needs as well.
Next, she ministered in Liberia, touching and influencing many lives there for eight years. When she came back to the United States she worked with African-American orphans and opened an orphanage in the Chicago area. She was able to do this with the funds garnered from her memoirs. In her final few years of life, Amanda was able to enjoy Florida in a donated home. She died in 1915, having lived a beautiful life of giving and loving.
A missionary to India, Bishop James Thoburn, said this of Amanda:
Through my association with her I learned many valuable lessons, more that has been of actual value to me as a preacher of Christian truth than from any other person I have ever met (Evans p 186).
Thank you, Lord, for blessing Amanda and blessing us through her example!